An employee had a gun to her forehead; others ran for their lives: Witnesses describe the Chesapeake Walmart shooting
Though Jessie Wilczewski had been working at the Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart for only a few days, her Tuesday night shift started like all the rest, with a routine team meeting in the break room.
Moments after the meeting began, Wilczewski found herself face to face with her team leader, who held a gun to her forehead after having shot her coworkers.
She managed to escape and make it back home to her 15-month-old, but she told CNN the night — and the sound of blood dripping on the floor — keeps replaying in her head.
Six of her colleagues including a teenager were killed in the massacre after the gunman, who Chesapeake officials identified as 31-year-old Andre Bing, began firing into the room where employees had gathered for a meeting.
According to a statement from Walmart, Bing, was overnight team lead and had been employed with the company since 2010. He fatally shot himself, police said.
“It’s horrible because it doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop replaying when you leave the scene, it doesn’t stop hurting as much, it doesn’t stop,” Wilczewski said Wednesday night after recounting the horrifying experience.
Five of the deceased victims were identified by city officials as Lorenzo Gamble; Brian Pendleton; Kellie Pyle; Randall Blevins; and Tyneka Johnson. The sixth deceased victim was a 16-year-old boy who authorities are not naming because he was a minor, the city said. They were all Walmart employees, a company spokesperson told CNN.
Employees had just clocked in when gunfire erupted
Wilczewski noticed the shooter shortly after 10 p.m., she said. She was listening to another team lead speak before she turned her head toward the doorway and saw Bing standing with a gun pointed at the group — an image she didn’t register as real.
Then she began to feel her chest vibrating and her ears ringing as gunshots erupted, she said. Wilczewski leaped under a table while the gunman walked off down a nearby hallway.
“I didn’t want to be loud. I didn’t want him to hear me and make him mad and make him come back,” Wilczewski told CNN.
Around her, some coworkers were on the floor, while others were laying on chairs — all still. She knew many were likely not alive, but Wilczewski stayed because she didn’t want to leave them alone, she said.
“The sound of the droplets (hitting the floor),” she said, “It replays and replays and replays and replays.”
When he came back, the gunman told her to get out from under the table, she said. She obeyed, putting her bag out first to indicate she didn’t have a weapon, and raised her arms.
“I slid from out underneath the table and I was shaking,” she said. “He just had the gun up to my forehead.”
He told her to go home, pulling the gun away and aiming it at the ceiling. She got up slowly, trying not to look at anyone on the ground.
“I had to touch the door which was covered (in blood), and I walked out the double doors to where you can see the aisles of Walmart and … I just remember gripping my bag and thinking, ‘If he’s going to shoot me in the back — well, he’s going to have to try really hard because I’m running,’ and I booked it,” she said. “I didn’t stop until I got to my car and then I had a meltdown.”
Employee Jalon Jones, 24, also ran out of the store to safety, after getting shot in his back. Outside the hospital Wednesday, Jones’ mother, Kimberly Shupe told CNN affiliate WTKR her son was in the ICU.
He told her that what started as a normal day at work quickly changed when he saw the team leader’s gun and a bullet grazed Jones’ ear.
“That’s when he realized that he was being shot,” Shupe said. Jones made it to the front of the store, and when he got there, he was shot again, she said.
“That’s when he received help from another coworker that took him outside to her vehicle until the medics showed up,” Shupe said.
‘I had to make it home to my son’
Briana Tyler was also a new hire. She had clocked in to work shortly after 10 p.m. when she saw Bing standing in the doorway.
“Everybody was just waiting to figure out where they were going for the night and then all of a sudden you just hear ‘pa pa pa pa pa pa pa,'” Tyler told CNN.
After he started shooting, Bing didn’t speak or point the gun at anyone in particular, Tyler recalled.
“He just had a blank stare on his face, and he just literally just looked around the room and just shot and there were people just dropping to the floor,” she said.
It was a horrifying sight that’s seared into her mind.
“The two visions I can’t get out of my head are the vision of him shooting the gun and the smoke leaving,” Tyler said. “I’m watching the smoke leave the barrel of the gun and my friend bleeding out from her neck.”
The gunman continued shooting throughout the store, Tyler said, while everyone around her was screaming. She couldn’t believe what was happening, until she saw injured friends on the ground and made a run for it.
“As I was running, it was just run, don’t trip, don’t fall, just run,” she said. “I just knew I had to make it home to my son and as soon as I made it outside, I just called my mom.”
Donya Prioleau, who told CNN she’d heard Bing say “a lot of disturbing things” in the past, was also in the break room when the gunman entered.
Bing walked in and shot three of her friends “before I took off running. Half of us didn’t believe it was real until some of us saw all the blood on the floor,” she said.
Two slain victims and the shooter were found in the break room, while another was found at the front of the store, the city of Chesapeake said. Three others died at the hospital, officials said.
At least six more people were transported to local hospitals for treatment, one of whom remained in critical condition Wednesday, city officials said. Authorities were also working to determine if any victims found their own transportation to hospitals.
A woman played dead to survive
Employee Kevin Harper narrowly missed an encounter with the gunman.
“I just left out the break room,” Harper says in a video posted to Facebook.
“(The gunman) just come in there, started capping people up in there. Started shooting, bro. … As soon as I left out the break room, he went in there, man. By the grace of God, yo,” Harper says, acknowledging his fortune in not being injured or worse.
Harper thought it was nothing at first but soon realized something was awry and fled, he says on the video, which appears to have been filmed in the store’s parking lot.
“Then, I started hearing him getting closer so … I booked it. I seen everybody run. I booked it, too,” he said. “I got up out of there.”
As he records, a woman in the background is heard telling him she played dead during the attack. Others join in the discussion, sharing information on those killed.
“He killed the girl in there and everything,” Harper says. “He came in there and just started spraying and s**t. … I’m sorry for the victims.”
The city said the shooter was armed with a handgun and multiple magazines. Police were working Wednesday to find out more about the suspect’s background and identify a possible motive.
Wilczewski said she thinks about how else she could have helped, how she could have changed Tuesday night’s outcome and wonders why the shooter let her go.
“It bothers me really, really bad. I don’t know why he did what he did,” she told CNN. “Because I could have sworn I was a goner.”
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